Panasonic specialises in laptops for those workers who need to be active in difficult and potentially dangerous conditions. So the CF-19 Toughbook (£2325 inc. VAT) comes protected by a solid magnesium casing that has been designed to meet the US military standard MIL-STD 810F, which means it can withstand extremes of heat and cold, as well as dust and moisture.

Essentially an upgrade of the earlier CF-18, this machine mixes a rugged laptop design with a number of Tablet PC features. For instance, you don't need to use the keyboard, as you can use the touchscreen display to enter data.

To makes things simpler, the screen rotates 180-degrees and folds over to hide the keyboard away, making it easier to write. The hinge holding the screen in place is firm and solid and comes with a release button, so you can't accidentally twist the screen around.

This isn't a machine for the casual user. At 2.3kg, it's a semi-light machine and the carrying strap on the back means you can carry it with ease, or even iuse it as a prop when you need to hold the laptop when moving about.

Build quality is certainly high and we were impressed with what we saw. However, compromises have been made. For instance, the keyboard is cramped and we found it slow to respond; as was the touchpad, but this is due to the rubber sealant protecting the sensors. Being a sealed unit there is no fan, so the CF-19 uses an ultra-low voltage chip to keep things cool on the inside, in this instance the Intel Core Duo U2400.

This is a 1.06GHz chip, so isn't intended for heavy duty work. In tests we found this quite a sluggish system compared to less specialised designs, but it is capable of handling most tasks with a degree of success.

Staying power

One of the advantages of such a low voltage chip is the impact it can have on battery life. Panasonic is renowned for its laptop battery technology, so we weren't surprised to find this laptop lasted for 439 minutes under test. At over seven hours between charges, you can use this machine out in the field for most of the working day and not have to worry about carrying a secondary battery.

The Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 has been designed with a specific purpose in mind and it meets it with style and precision. While the average user won't feel the need for such a sturdy laptop, there is no denying how effective it is for rough environments.